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Delivering a healthy future

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A HEALTHY future for people depends on animals being healthy, too. This year's BVA Congress, to be held in Liverpool from September 27 to 29, will examine some of the issues that affect the health and welfare of animals, whether those animals provide companionship, food, or are used in sport. With the Government redefining its role in relation to animal health, the congress will also look at ways in which the veterinary profession can contribute to safeguarding animal health and welfare in the future, as well as factors affecting the health of the profession itself. In addition, it will feature a small animal clinical CPD programme, put together by the University of Liverpool, covering a number of topics of direct relevance to day-to-day practice.

From a public health perspective, few topics have attracted as much attention over the past 12 months as antimicrobial resistance, and the need to ensure that effective products remain available to treat infections in people and animals. This will form the subject of the plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture, to be given by David Heymann, head of the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House and chairman of the Health Protection Agency Board, who will consider the veterinary profession's role in this area and how it can be developed. A subsequent debate, ‘Antimicrobials – vets in the spotlight’, will provide an opportunity to discuss this often contentious issue further. Meanwhile, at a practice level, a series of lectures in the clinical CPD programme will offer practical advice on using antimicrobials responsibly.

Other topics in the clinical programme include the management of elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament rupture and osteoarthritis in dogs, as well as the diagnosis and management of tumours. Further sessions will consider the use of ultrasound in the diagnosis of heart disease, treatment of cardiomyopathy and heart failure in cats, investigation and management of the collapsing patient, a practical approach to acute gastroenteritis and the long-term management of obesity.

Small animal topics also feature heavily in the contentious issues programme. A dog may be man's best friend, but how good as friends are people to their pets? Debates will look at the pros and cons of pet ownership from the animal's point of view, as well as the benefits pets can bring to their owners. With many of the conditions affecting companion animal welfare being preventable, another debate will consider what can be done to raise awareness among owners of the need to look after their animal's health and to encourage more of them to seek veterinary advice.

Animal welfare will also be to the fore in a debate about the use of horses in sport. It is in the nature of racing that horses are pushed to the limit, but how hard should they be pushed? And to what extent should vets intervene to ensure best performance?

On the farm animal side, debates will focus on two issues that will increasingly shape the provision of farm veterinary services in the future: responsibility and cost sharing, and the extent to which vets can engage more effectively with farmers. Meanwhile, as the Government continues to redefine its role in this area, a question and answer session involving the four chief veterinary officers of the UK will give a chance to find out about how this might impact on essential activities such as disease surveillance and TB testing. Vets continue to be affected by government policies relating to animal health but, given their expertise, must also have a role in shaping them. In the congress opening address, recently appointed veterinary peer Lord Trees will give a view from inside Parliament and discuss the role of science in public policy.

At the BVA Congress in 2006, in a debate on the changing gender balance of the veterinary profession, concern was expressed that there were ‘occupationally relevant sex differences’ between men and women that would affect the way the profession developed in the future. A debate at this year's congress called ‘A woman's world?’ will revisit the issue and assess whether that concern was well-founded.

Much has changed over the past six years and the process continues apace. With its combination of CPD and debates, in which delegate participation is encouraged, the BVA Congress provides an opportunity both to catch up on what is happening and influence what happens next. Full details are available at

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